The Chinese celebrity stylists behind glamour of Fan Bingbing, Zhang Ziyi, Zhao Wei, Shu Qi and other stars
China’s celebrity culture has blossomed over the past five years, with stars attending numerous local and international events. Helping them look elegant are celebrity stylists who are becoming famous in their own right
Until 2011, the vast majority of Chinese celebrities used to dress themselves, but as more and more leave China for international red carpet events, attend Met Galas or be photographed in the front row at fashion shows in Paris, the need for a consistently stylish appearance has also grown.
“It’s not something I would even say is happening organically; in the past five years, this phenomenon has exploded. This is another reflection of how China is growing, we call it ‘China speed’,” says InStyle China editor-in-chief, Jerri Ng.
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According to Ng, China’s celebrity styling game is currently dominated by a few big names: fashion director for T Magazine China, Lucia Liu, who works with celebrities including Bibi Zhou, Zhao Wei and Yao Chen; Mix Wei, who juggles styling for Marie Claire China and top stars, including Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Shu Qi and Li Bingbing; and Madame Figaro China fashion executive editor-in-chief, Min Rui, who also styles Fan Bingbing.
“When I began styling celebrities, there wasn’t a huge demand for styling apart from large commercial advertisements, magazine shoots, and A-list fashion and film events,” Mix Wei says.
“Today, celebrities look to stylists for their daily life and a wide array of events, which shows that the focus on fashion and fashion trends has become more commonplace throughout China.”
It’s no coincidence that China’s top celebrity styling trio all have fashion magazine backgrounds.
“Imagine having all these celebrities calling you and sharing their insecurities. You are also the go-between between the celebrity and the fashion houses, and this requires a lot of finesse, experience and maturity,” Ng says.
“People think styling is so easy, I get a dress, put you in it and that’s it. But today, in China with social media here, it’s so vicious, if you choose something wrong you will just get decimated.”
A higher standard of living in China has led to an increased demand for entertainment; there are more actors, singers, models and opinion leaders, and there are more people following them on social media every day and greater style competition between celebrities who need to keep their appearance relevant to legions of young fans.
“It seems as though there is a new girl on the red carpet every week,” says Leaf Greener, founder of LEAF WeChat magazine and a former style editor at Elle China. There is a financial incentive for stylists to make the jump with this growing celebrity styling pool.
“If their clients are top celebrities, they have so much work, advertising is a big part of their income, if they have 10 advertisements, the stylist has a lot of work and will make a lot of money, on top of that are the red carpet events, some people work on the celebrities’ films and TV shows as well. If you want to make a lot of money in China, always work with celebrities,” she says.
As with celebrity stylists in Hollywood, such as Kate Young and Rachel Zoe, in China the stylists are becoming influencers in their own right: Lucia Liu is a favourite of street-style photographers.
Brand partnerships with celebrities and labels paying stylists are commonplace in China.
“Of course,” Greener says. “[The stylists] are doing a job for the brands, so it’s normal that they should be paid. Western brands are always looking to work with top Chinese celebrities.”
One of China’s first generation of celebrity stylists, Christopher Bu, who worked with Fan Bingbing before launching his own independent design label in 2011, has been garnering acclaim as the designer of some of Fan’s most famous outfits.
“I think in the future [celebrity styling] will be very big,” Bu says. “This industry will develop alongside the country’s economy, there are a lot of professional needs, a lot of ads, a lot of international events celebrities need to attend. Now, you can see China’s young people are starting to have their own ideas, for example, the post-2000 generation are growing up and will give China a completely new appearance.”
Fil Xiaobai leveraged a winning street-style snap in her hometown of Chengdu in 2011 into more than a million Weibo followers and a job working as personal stylist to singer and actor Kris Wu – a fellow millennial who shares her affinity for mixing traditional luxury brands with a street wear edge.
China’s top celebrity stylists
The consummate style professional for China’s modern era, Lucia Liu, 34, moved to the UK to study fashion design and worked with top international publications, such as i-D and Dazed & Confused. She returned to China in 2009.Liu has developed an unmistakable style language, and has become something of a fashion icon in her own right.
A childhood love of music, art and drama meant Mix Wei, 32, knew he was destined for a creative career. Known for promoting Chinese designers, as well as brands that are little known in China, “No matter who the person is that I style, whether it is a model, celebrity, or an actress, every person has an individual personality, energy, and spirit. I always do my best to capture the individual’s persona and energy in the styling I choose,” he says.
Best known as stylist to one of China’s biggest international stars: Fan Bingbing. Min Rui has helped Fan craft her elegant, feminine red-carpet aesthetic. She rarely puts a foot wrong, which says a lot about the stylists she has chosen to help shape her look.